poem 148

Better death than suffer the affronts
of growing old

In the gardens, Celia gazed upon a rose
that candid in its haughty ostentation,
and bright in tints of scarlet and rich crimson,
joyfully its fragile face exposed,
and said: ,,Enjoy the day, fear not the blows
of Fate in this too fleeting celebration,
the death that on the morrow claims its portion,
cannot take from you the joys this day bestows;
though the perfume of life fade on the air,
and the hour of your passing too soon toll,
fear not the death that finds you young and fair:
take the counsel that experience extols,
to die while beautiful is finer far
than to suffer the affront of growing old.”

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz


The cherry blossoms
Have passed through so many springs,
Blooming and fading,
And even I have grown old
In my cogon-thatched cottage.

Fujiwara Teika

in all ages

In all ages, always, everywhere, and everywhere
It repeats itself, that cruel dream—
The inexplicable kiss of Judas
And the ring of the accursed silver.

To understand such things is a task in vain.
Humanity conjectures once again:
Let him betray (when he cannot do else),
But why a kiss on the lips? …

Yulia Drunina

the ten ages of man

A child in his infancy grows his first set of teeth and loses them
within seven years. For so long he counts as only a child.
When God has brought to accomplishment the next seven-year period,
one shows upon his body the signs of maturing youth.
In the third period he is still getting his growth, while on his chin
the beard comes, to show he is turning from youth to a man.
The fourth seven years are the time when every man reaches his highest
point of physical strength where men look for prowess achieved.
In the fifth period the time is ripe for a young man
to think of marriage and children, a family to be raised.
The mind of a man comes to full maturity in the sixth period,
but he cannot now do as much, nor does he wish that he could.
In the seventh period of seven years and in the eighth also
for fourteen years in all, his speech is best in his life.
He can still do much in his ninth period, but there is a weakening
seen in his ability both to think and to speak.
But if he completes ten ages of seven years each, full measure,
death, when it comes, can no longer be said to come too soon.



(in possession of pity?)
old age now
(my) skin covers…

(Love?) flies
pursuing (the young?)…
taking (your lyre?)
sing to us of the violet-
robed one…


old age

What, then, is life if love the golden is gone? What is pleasure?
Better to die when the thought of these is lost from my heart:
the flattery of surrender, the secret embrace in the darkness.
These alone are such charming flowers of youth as befall
women and men. But once old age with its sorrows advances
upon us, it makes a man feeble and ugly alike,
heart worn thin with the hovering expectation of evil,
lost all joy that comes out of the sight of the sun.
Hateful to boys a man goes then, unfavored of women.
Such is the thing of sorrow God has made of old age.